Simple Ingredient Lists: Just Another Marketing Gimmick or a Healthier Food Option?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There seems to be a new trend in town these days that may or may not help the average consumer. But in a world where there are literally hundreds of new products on the shelves to choose from, having a simplified ingredient list may just be the answer. Or is it?

Just last week several food manufacturers, including Frito-Lay and Häagen-Dazs, revealed new product lines containing a list of three to five ingredients on the nutrition label. No more fumbling around attempting to read chemical compounds that are next to impossible to pronounce. No longer do I have to search for the words partially hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup to pop out at me. Instead I can quickly skim the label and voilá there they are--three or five simple ingredients, nothing more.

For example Frito-Lay has a Classic Potato Chip with three ingredients on the label--Grade A Potato, all natural oil, and a dash of salt. While Häagen-Dazs is promoting a seven product ice cream line containing only five ingredients--milk, sugar, cream, eggs and a flavoring such as ginger or mint.

While I applaud the move to a more simplified ingredient list, I don’t believe this marketing strategy will persuade me to buy these foods. The reason--I don’t buy or eat them anyway. However, if I were to choose to buy ice cream it would be much easier for me to pick up a container of Häagen-Dazs Five more out of convenience since I would be able to read the ingredient list right on the front of the container.

As to whether or not this is a good thing, I am not sure. I wonder if this is not just another ploy to get us all to try a new product believing we are eating a healthier option. I remember in the 90's when everything was fat free only to discover when the manufacturers removed the fat; they replaced it with sugar and salt. What I thought was a healthier version was still ‘junk food’ in disguise. So while changing to a simplified ingredient list is a move in the right direction, these foods still contain empty calories and should not be a replacement for healthy fruits and veggies.

What do you think? Would you be willing to spend a little extra money for the simplicity on the label? Do you believe these are healthier options or just a marketing strategy?

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No I would not be willing to spend more money for simpler labels; the old complex, complete ones are fine. Food costs so much, I don't want to have to buy less because I'm paying for LABELING! Report
We need to be aware that manufacturers don't HAVE to list an ingredient when there is less than a certain percentage of that ingredient. Will Haagen-Daz use cream that has 5 ingredients in it? 4 of which are not good for us?? Why is it that when they take something OUT, the price goes up.? Ten ingredients would have to come out of the regular ice cream and probably 4-5 processing steps and yet it would cost more because they put something on the pkg? Do the Report
Yes, this is a marketing strategy, and Yes, I love it. I have always read food labels in an attempt to avoid unknown preservatives, stabilizers, and other unwanted ingredients. If this trend gives me more choices at the supermarket (or, at the very least, makes the things I want easier to find), hooray! Report
I do believe these foods are just junk food in disguise. "All Natural" doesn't necessarily mean good.On the list of ingredients on the potato chips, it says "all natural oil". It doesn't say what kind of oil, and if you think about it, lard is all natural(animal fat), but it's not healthy. On the ice cream, isn't it usually made with milk and cream, and sweetened with sugar? Why is sugar the second ingredient, over the cream? I'm not saying sugar is evil, just trying to point out that most of the things that the F.D.A. let's slip through their agency, are not as they seem.Sugar, being the second ingredient on the list means that more sugar was used in the making of this product, than cream.Maybe it should be called ice sugar.

You can go into any store and find bread and cereal that says "made with whole grains". You automatically think it's healthy. If you flip that bag, or box over and read the ingredients list, it will say "enriched" whole wheat, or whatever grain it's made from. The word enriched is automatically a warning sign that this is not a whole grain item. Yes it was made from whole grains, but it doesn't tell you that those grains have been processed and stripped of their natural nutrients, and replaced with the ones they want to put in it. This is allowed by the F.D.A., why? They are supposed to be protecting the consumer from being tricked, or mislead. Is this not misleading? I say it is. In order to get a whole grain bread,or cereal, the ingredient label has to say "100% whole wheat", or whatever grain it is made from(oats, bran, rye, etc.). In my opinion, the only way to KNOW something is natural, is to make it yourself. In the grocery store the only things you can count on being natural are the items that aren't required to have an ingredient label(raw produce). By the way, have you noticed that even "fresh" meat has an ingredient label now? Read them sometime. You may find you're getting more in your chicken breast than just good ole' chicken breast. Report
I appreciate any product that uses all natural ingredients. I rarely buy snack foods like chips or ice cream, but sometimes it's nice to have a treat. I recently found out I have a vitamin deficiency and read a lot about nutrition. My reading led me to try to completely clean processed food or altered food, like fat-free, etc, of any kind out of our diet. It's really hard to make everything from scratch, though, and particularly hard to convince children that they shouldn't eat the foods all their friends bring for lunch. So, I actually have bought the ice cream in the brown sugar flavor and it's fabulous. It tastes just like homemade. I will also say that I have noticed a huge difference in my daughter's digestive health since we went with whole foods. We had her tested for food allergies because she had so many problems, but we found it was just all the additives in processed food and fat free dairy products. Switching to whole milk products and cutting out artificial ingredients worked wonders for her. So, I will gratefully buy these products on occasion. Report
Go to the HEALTH FOOD STORE and buy food if SIMPLE ingredients are a real issue. The food industry is geared to MASS supply and you don;t get food there that is "hand grown." Report
Why are so many people relentlessly critical of the food industry? I hope the "simple ingredients" trend continues and is expanded to many kinds of food - not just chips and ice cream. It would definitely have an impact on my choices, along with other key factors such as calories/fat/fiber/etc. Report
don't trust them.they could put anything in them and we would'nt kwow,is anyone going to check. Report
The article focuses on potato chips and ice cream but I think the simple ingredient list can be a healthier options for other foods, for example cereals, breads, vegetables, etc. I check the labels and the size of the ingredient list is one thing I look for when I make my purchases mainly because we are dependent upon processed foods for much of our food supply. Report
I don't eat chips and I always seem to buy skinny cow or weight watcher's fudge bars instead of ice cream but I like the trend of simplified ingredients without all of the additives. If I ate chips and ice cream I would buy those products. Report
The Häagen-Dazs you mention sounds very much like the Breyers natural that's been around for years. When I want the treat, I want the "purity" of ingredient lists such as those rather than the cheap brands full of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and stabilizers to mimic the mouth-feel of real cream. Despite nutritionists saying that the sugars in HFCS being the same as beet or cane sugar; I've seen the blood glucose monitor readings that say differently.
Also, this blog article only mentions treats and snacks like ice cream and potato chips, but I'd believe there are other food products making this sort of move more quietly in response to consumer desires. Report
You can't really remove chemicals from foods like these, it just isn't possible. All packaged foods have chemicals, all of them.
It is impossible to package these foods & make them last a long time without adding anything to them. Potato chips are sort of easy to make, ice cream, maybe with practice. I guarantee you it wont last long in your cupboard (chips). But if you're like me, you won't need to store them long.
Adding simple ingredients won't make me buy them, if they taste better, that probably will, just need to eat them in moderation. Report
"Genetically Modified fish genes" Ugh. and Thanks for letting us know. Report
Pretty interesting idea! I like the idea of it in certain situations where the ingredients don't need to be broken down (like who needs/wants to know the chemical makeup of an egg?). But I also imagine that it could be an easy way for companies to hide things like high fructose corn syrup or saturated/trans fats. I also feel that it doesn't excuse consumers from using common sense. A potato chip is a potato chip whether it has 5 ingredients or 25 ingredients listed on the bag. Report
Me, I'm all about natural foods. The fewer chemicals & artificial ingredients in a food, the more apt I am to buy it. BUT, these are empty calorie foods, so the chips I would never buy. I'll make my own @ & bake the potatoes & NOT add salt. The ice cream I'd be more apt to eat b/c @ least U would be getting some calcium. The key is moderation! Report
NOTHING changed in the potato chips. There have always only been 3 ingredients if they are plain salt and they will stay that way. The marketing part is just to allow people to understand that they are simple. What else would a potato chip be made of anyhow? (well, except pringles which aren't really potato chips to being with) Report
It sounds like a marketing strategy to me! Having a simplified list in front will discourage the average customer from looking at the list of preservatives and addatives that is usually located in very fine print at the end of the back label. Report
If you are looking to get away from all the preservatives, chemicals, and such than yes the nes 3, 5 ingredient veresions are healthier. You just have to be consumer wise to what you are eating just as you are now. You have to watch the calories, fat, sodium, and sugar per serving. If you do as I do you will also want to see how much fiber you are getting per serving, see if you are getting whole grains in your food - if it is that type of food - as compared to whole wheat flour, let's say. It's for just this reason, for example, I no longer purchase taco seasoning packets. I prefer to make my own seasoning mixtires with chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder. I add chopped onion and diced jalepeno peppers to the meat and black beans. This way I am not paying for preservatives and starch which is added to the taco seasoning packs you purchase in the supermarket. It all boils down to being aware of what you are buying and what you want out of you food purchases. Five ingredients in a product does not necessarily make it healthy or low calorie so you just have to be smart about what you buy. Report
I believe Edd'y ice cream had the simple ingrediant list for years: no colorings or unpronounceble chemicals. I rarely buy it, but i can enjoy it because it has a simple, pure taste. Report
I think removing the chemicals from our food is a great step, if that is indeed what is happening. (We aren't seeing a loosening of FDA regulations on what has to be listed, or companies finding loopholes to avoid listing ingredients, are we? That's my only concern, so I'll watch for signs of that happening.)

Anyways, if companies are truly removing the chemicals from our food, I applaud that effort! Yeah, it's still junk food, and I eat it rarely. However, currently, if I'm going to have a treat, I choose those without chemicals and additives. If more companies are moving in that direction, that gives me more options. I like more options!

It's not just me, though. I like what this trend says about people's awareness. If companies are making the effort to simplify, it's in response to public demand. This means that the American public are moving towards less tolerance for chemicals and additives in our food. THAT is the most important reason that I think this is a move in the right direction. Report
I actually do like the simpler ingredients, and I don't think it's junk, in the sense that there is some nutritional value in whole ingredients like cream. I can see someone eating it as an occasional treat. That said, it's still way too rich for me. Report
I agree. Using simple ingredients doesn't mean they are no longer junk food. Since now they use less chemicals and preservatives as a result we have to pay more for the same junk, I would be even less likely to buy them. Report
And who came up with "slow churned!" And why is this better? Chris Report
I think it is a wonderful beginning, and I for one hope it catchs on quickly.
Polysorbate 80, Sodium Nitrate, Monosodium Glutimate, Sulfites etc. are things not grown on a farm or come from an animal.
We should not be eating these chemicals in our food!
We have a growing population of people becoming sick from eating chemically preserved, enhanced, or altered food. This sick population is growing at an alarming rate!
I believe the chemical food additives to be the root of a lot of disease in this country.
It has become so prevalent in the food manufacturing industry, that it is starting to infiltrate itself into the restaurant industry, because these chemicals and chemically altered food keeps longer on the shelf.
Just think how confused the body gets trying to metabolizes and utilizes these chemicals. Our bodies metabolize these chemicals much differently than it does food, with unexpected results.
These chemicals cause Migraines, water retention, allergic reactions, high blood pressure, high sugar spiking, altered moods, and who knows what else.

I've tried feeding my dog some of this preserved, and chemically altered food, and he won't touch some of it!

I say get the chemistry experiments out of our food, and get back to natural ingredients. This is what our bodies were designed to eat, and what will keep our bodies healty.

I for one am glad to hear there will be more unadulterated choices on the grocery shelves.

I think the point of this artical is very misleading!
The point should not be a shorter reading list, but rather a more pure food product.
Words are very powerful, and are used too often to say or lead people in the wrong direction.
We should reclaim our health in this country by cleaning out all of the foreign chemicals out of our foods.
This was a very strange way to word this very important issue with our food supply.
The amount of words in the food ingredient list is not the important issue, it is the lack of chemical food additives and chemical food alterers poisoning our food that is the real issue here. Report

a) they products tasted nice


b) I had set out to get potato chips or ice cream

I probably would buy these things. If I'm going to have a treat, I'd like it to be as simple and natural as possible. Report
Breyers and Dreyers Double Churned, etc ice creams are all dumped here in the US because Unilever who owns the brand can't sell them in Europe because they contain Genetically Modified fish genes. They have to be labeled as GM in Europe and Europeans refuse to buy them. Here they don't have to be labeled! So yes, I buy Haagen-Dazs Simply 5 for treats. I certainly wouldn't feed the others to my grandson. I prefer to buy organic as much as possible. It's better for us and the planet. Report
I prefer to know everything that is in the container I'm purchasing - however...most importantly to me is the breakdown of carbs, fat, calories per serving, etc. THAT's what I need to know in order to purchase/make a decision on a product. Report
I certainly would buy products with simpler ingredient lists. The fewer the ingredients, USUALLY the less processed it is. However, I wouldn't pick potato chips with 3 ingredients over say, yogurt with 10. But compared with other foods of the same type, yes. But, you should buy most of your foods with a single ingredient - whole fruits and veggies, meats, milk and the like. Cook from scratch and you'll be healthier. With a background in chemistry, I understand what most of the "chemicals" listed on the labels are for and I can usually pronounce them (not all of them though!). Keep in mind that sometimes the "chemicals" on the labels are actually vitamins and are good for you. Check out the label on a cereal box for some examples. Report
Great Idea! I would buy simple products over long lists of chemicals any day and I applaud these companies for going back to basics. I was happy to buy some jam the other day that was only fruit, sugar and pectin. Report
I would definitely buy simpler-ingredient food. My family's health is very important to me. I feel better about feeding my family foods that don't have chemicals or high fructose corn syrup in them. So, I will go out of my way to buy these things because less is more! Report
I'm a born cynic but I still like the trend toward fewer ingrediants in the interest of health. BUT... knowledge is power so you should not get complacent or lazy with labels! I say this as I nosh on Great Value (Walmart generic) Dried Apples. Did I read the label? Of course! Ingredients: Dried Apples, Sodium Sulfate (to preserve color). It doesn't advertise that it has few ingredients but only two are listed in small print on the back. READ LABELS! Don't give in to advertising attempts to make us complacent so they can put something over on us later ~ Report
I actually tried the 5 ingredient vanilla ice cream. It was so good, and according to the container it has slightly less fat than the original. Not something I would eat all the time, but if I wanted a treat, this would definitely get my vote. Report
I think it's great that food companies are actually going BACK to using FOOD in their products. How ground breaking. Yes, I would definitely buy these over the chemically laden choices. Report
I love, love, love the commercialization of healthier items.
Heck, at one time if you wanted hummus or tahini or brown rice or, or, or... you had to live in a big city, or go to small specialty shops. If you wanted organic... heck, if you wanted organic you practically had to grow it yourself. So... YES! I am happy that I can go to any supermarket and buy cage free, free range, organic, yada, yada.
Choices... more healthy choices.
Yes, some food is higher in fat or calories... but give me the birds and the bees, take away the chemicals. Thanks, commercial world for hearing the requests.
There is no junk- not in real food. Just balancing and choices.
Companies are required by law to list every ingredient that takes up more than 2% of the products weight. There is no way they are hiding ingredients from us. What little falls below the 2% won't have any affect on your health. Report
I love ice cream! Its one of my few indulgences. I really love the idea that companies are going natural. As people are becoming more health conscious they are going to turn to the companies that are making the healthiest products. So yes, companies are doing it as a marketing plan to earn more money. But is that so bad? As long as I'll be eating ice cream, they'll be getting my business. If I'm getting the healthiest product out there, I'm happy. Its a win-win!

Breyers is the brand that has always had the simple list. And in my opinion its one of the best tasting brands out there, and at a pretty fair price :) Report
In the end is it healthier to eat or just the same as it was before? Are there no other ingredients it really is just the 5? I have to check these out when I go shopping to see for myself! I guess a big deal breaker for me would be are they better to eat than the regular chips or ice cream. Just like it was stated you think fat free was good back in the days and here it was just replaced with other stuff just as bad. Report
I always read the lable, even if things are listed elsewhere. I read the whole thing, not just what they want me to see. Report
And are they really taking the preservatives and so forth OUT, or just getting permission not to mention them? I find it hard to believe that these companies made it big and stayed on top by adding all these things and SUDDENLY they changed their recipes and expect to remain popular? Report
I am one that can't eat many things due to allergies and reactions. If all the major food manufactures would follow this we we be in better shape. I had an issue with "Best Foods" last week and was concerned with a possible "hidden ingredient" since they do have a proprietary mystery name. I did get a call back early the next business day with a response that they have prepared this product in a "safe environment" and there was no chance of cross contamination. That was a huge relief for someone that just wants to eat without making it more complicated. Now if we could convince them to reduce the salt to a negligible amount in all things that we can add our own. I would be very happy indeed. Report
I too think it's a ploy to not have to list all the ingredients. These manufacturers are sneaky. I recently bought a can of peaches that said No sugar added. However, the peaches were in pear juice, which consisted of pear juice concentrate, which does have sugar added. They disguise ingredients by calling them another name. I would prefer the entire list, no matter how hard it is to read. Report
I like the simple lists . I like that they have also started to list allergy items...wheat, milk, peanuts...etc in bold letters at the end (we are wheat sensitive). That was a lot easier for the dh to pick the correct items to buy. I also like "sugar grams" listed...i really compare those when buying oat cereals, or oat bars. Anything to make it simplier! Report
"milk, sugar, cream, eggs and a flavoring such as ginger or mint. "

Sounds like homemade ice cream, a cheaper alternative and it will last just as long. Now that I'm not eating a container of food as quickly, I want it to have some preservatives in it so that it doesn't go bad before I finish it. And, I can make ice cream with out the raw egg component.

While I like the idea of simple ingredients, I look at that list and feel sure that something is missing. Like sea weed to keep it creamy. And while I would like to adhere to the "if you can't pronounce it, don't eat" mentality, Organic Chemistry class has changed that. I can pronounce the ingredients on my shampoo. Report
I actually tried Haagan Daz Five ice cream in the Brown sugar flavor. I tried it because the flavor sounded interesting and the calories weren't TOO exhorbitant. I enjoyed it and if I can find it at a decent price I will probably buy it again. Report
It seems like some people are misunderstanding that these ARE the only ingredients. It's not that the companies are trying to mislead us by not disclosing what is in the food, it's that they have simplified their recipes to make their products more natural. It probably affects the shelf life a bit, when they are not using the same chemicals to extend it artificially, but personally I'm okay with that. Report
.I feel like the chips sound healthier but the ice cream is milk and sugar. Not so healthy. Report
Hasn't Hagen Dazs always had simple ingredient labels? I think companies are copying them.
I'm still in the early stages of choosing a more healthy lifestyle consistently. I realize the problems that I could encounter should I eat foods like sugar, salt, and unsaturated fats. For one thing, I would set myself up for cravings. And for another, I'm not sure I would be satisfied with just a half a cup of vanilla ice cream with a half a cookie.

And yet, I see no reason why I shouldn't have an occasional indulgence as long as I track the nutritional values, especially the calorie and fat content. As a matter of fact, several meals on my nutrition page listed an oreo cookie, and fat-free ice cream (not on the same meal) as an option. I switched to something that had more nutritional value that I could eat more of and get full (at the portion phase).

Maybe someday after I've been a Sparkie for longer than 3 weeks, I can trust and allow myself to enjoy "junk" food in moderation.

I am more apt to look at the totals of the calories, fats, proteins etc than read the whole list. I am trying to eat healthier choices so if these are healthier and have totals that I can live with than yes I would buy them. Report
Because of allergies and specific needs I want all the ingredients listed not just the main ingredients. Nutritive additives no matter how minute need to be included. If there is a soy additive, specifically soy flour or soy protein, I will not touch it. Will eat very few items with soy bean oil or lecithin. Chances of my developing problems from these are extremely high and I don't want another hospital stay. I am all for simplicity in recipes but not on ingredients labels. Report
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